Hard times for conservative media

Hard times for conservative media
Hard times for conservative media
Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Chris Hayes made an important point this morning that’s easily overlooked: “Much of movement conservatism is a con and the base is the marks.”

The observation followed this disturbing story from Eric Hananoki:

If you’re relying on financial advice from Fox News contributor Erick Erickson to become a millionaire overnight, you might want to hold off on buying that boat.

Erickson emailed subscribers to his RedState.com email list this week claiming he’s found the “best investment advice I know of, bar none,” in the financial newsletter of analyst Mark Skousen. Yet 12 paragraphs of Erickson’s signed endorsement are virtually identical to language used by Ann Coulter in emails nearly four years ago.

Erickson’s email – titled, “How to Retire in Comfort Even If You DON’T Work in Government” – attacks public-sector workers for purportedly living in luxury with President Barack Obama in office. He then endorsed Skousen’s newsletter, which purports to reveal a “secret” system to becoming “instant millionaires.” Erickson claimed that Skousen “knows how to make you money,” and the “best investment advice I know of, bar none, can be found in Mark Skousen’s Forecasts & Strategies – and I urge you to give it a try.”

Everything about this story is just unseemly, even by conservative standards. What we have here is an apparent scheme in which Erickson sends a paid letter to his supporters about someone else’s investment newsletter. That the letter was plagiarized adds insult to injury, but that’s hardly the most offensive part – people who choose to rely on Erickson were sent an ad masquerading as an endorsement*, along with a link that sends readers to a page promising a “secret retirement plan” that “can make you America’s Next Millionaire!”

And note how Erickson’s subject line plays on conservatives’ dubious ideological predispositions – “even if” you’re not one of those rascally public-sector employees, you can “retire in comfort,” as if those darned bureaucrats don’t have to struggle like everyone else.

The “letter” includes a disclaimer, noting the endorsement does “not necessarily” reflect Erick Erickson’s positions, even though it includes Erick Erickson’s hand-written signature and is written in the first person.

The package, in other words, seems pretty sketchy, especially from one of conservative media’s more high-profile commentators.

But there’s a larger point to this about the nature of conservative media in contemporary politics.

The Erickson story is, of course, rather ugly, but note that it comes on the heels of the Daily Caller dispatching a teenager to the White House briefing room yesterday to ask a dumb question of the press secretary for the president of the United States. The Daily Caller, it’s worth noting, occasionally claims to be a credible news organization.

Also this week, Rosie Gray reported on the latest payola controversy in which several conservative bloggers “repeated talking points given to them by a proxy group for the Ukrainian government – and at least one writer was paid by a representative of the Ukrainian group.”

And these three incidents are just from this week – and the week isn’t over yet.

I’ll gladly concede that I bring my own perspective to current events, and don’t generally find much I can agree with in conservative media. But the problem isn’t about news outlets on the right publishing unpersuasive policy arguments; rather, it’s about conservative media operating without standards, judgment, or concern for propriety.

It’s not new, either. As we discussed in March, the Daily Caller ran a ridiculous story about Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) that turned out to be such an incredible fiasco, it amazes me that anyone still reads it.

And as we talked about at the time, there appear to be serious institutional flaws in conservative media that encourage and perpetuate important missteps.

I’d encourage those involved in conservative media – or just as importantly, those who rely on these outlets as reliable sources of accurate news and analysis – to start asking some basic questions. How many of you took “Skewed Polls” seriously? How about “Friends of Hamas”? How many ran paid propaganda from the Malaysian government?

How many ran reports about Obama’s non-existent library using Reagan’s childhood home as a parking lot? How many said Hillary Clinton may have been faking a concussion? How many uncritically ran with strange conspiracy theories about Benghazi, the IRS “scandal,” Fast & Furious, imaginary voter fraud, birth certificates, ACORN, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics?

There’s something rotten in conservative media, and it’s time those involved in it to start making an effort to put things right.

* Erickson added today that the message to his list was not, in fact, an ad: ”I happy [sic] to support a good friend. Didn’t earn a penny.” That’s nice, but as explanations go, it’s rather incomplete.

Conservative Media and Erick Erickson

Hard times for conservative media